The former lawyer of Nelson Mandela, Lord David Howell, who is now the United Kingdom Minister of State responsible for Commonwealth Affairs, told Radio VOP on Wednesday in London that Zimbabwe should do more to regain its commonwealth status.
“It’s for the people of Zimbabwe to play out, SADC is already playing a remarkable role which is closely related to the hands on approach that South Africa is playing,” said Howell.
“We are ready to start deploying our skills in the UK and the commonwealth. We are ready to help build Zimbabwe into the great country that it was but we can’t do more when the politics of the country can’t allow us. We would like to see Zimbabwe back on in the Commonwealth and there is a lot of willingness out there.”
Howell who described Zimbabwe as a “great country” said the country has to do away with the deep-seated culture of human rights abuses that still characterise everyday life. He cited the recent arrest of Munyaradzi Gwisai and a Commonwealth Professional Fellow, Antonette Tafadzwa Choto who could not travel to London to take up her studies as a result of the arrest as one classical example of the continuing human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth family of nations in 2002 after its election monitors concluded that elections that were held that year were seriously flawed.
The elections had returned President Mugabe to power. But before that Mugabe had announced his decision to pull out as a clever way of pre-empting a measure which was almost certain to come.
The suspension which still stands today bars the Zimbabwe leader from attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting which is held every two years. Zimbabwe hosted the meetings in 1995 and ironically it is at the Harare meeting that the guiding principles of the grouping were adopted. Among some of the principle is a shared love for democracy and human rights.
A report on how far Zimbabwe has gone in re-establishing a culture for the respect of human rights and rule of law will be tabled before the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) ahead of the CHOGM in October in Perth, Australia.